By Jennifer Gomori, MAP Editor

Renaissance Police Officers Association (RPOA) Employees were MAP members for 30 years when they decided to part ways with the Union in 2014 and opted to represent themselves instead. But drastic reductions in their benefits and a ‘don’t ask’ mentality led them to return to MAP this year.

“RPOA were members when MAP was formed in 1984,” said MAP Executive Director Fred Timpner.

MAP officially welcomed back RPOA when they joined the Union in July 2018, but MAP went to work for them two months prior as soon as they received a call from their new local union President Jessica Mitchell. By then the former president and vice president had already been through contract negotiations and the final last best offers had been submitted.

Mitchell became local union president in May and immediately called Timpner. “He started helping me on the side when we didn’t have anybody,’ she said. “Fred said, ‘Whether you all vote me in or not, I’m going to help you.’”

An overwhelming majority of the 90-plus member group voted in support of MAP.

Mitchell said she and many of her co-workers never really understood why the former local union president and vice president decided to end the relationship with MAP and opted instead to work with an attorney to manage their affairs. She said this was done without consulting the membership. “Our president took it upon himself to do everything,” Mitchell said. “All of us were very upset with (the former president). It was so divided. He said we had an attorney we hired but I never met him. We didn’t vote. We never had a meeting. It was a way to break the union looking back on it through my eyes.”

With no local president in place and a significant loss of benefits since leaving MAP, Mitchell decided to step up and take on the local president role. Contract talks with the attorney were in the final stages when MAP was elected, but RPOA began rebuilding their benefit package as soon as MAP stepped in with significant wage increases, health care benefits and Employee rights.

“When we had MAP back in the day we had all that stuff,” Mitchell said. “They had already been in negotiations and they gave us the last and final offer. Fred did talk them through getting the insurance down.”

The health care package had gotten very expensive in the Union’s absence. While Mitchell didn’t need healthcare through her Employer since she’s on her husband’s health insurance, she felt for those who had no other options. Employees with the Silver Plan were paying $299.60 per month for single coverage, $1023.30 a month with a spouse on insurance, and $1135 monthly for family coverage. “That’s what everyone was crying about,” she said. “It was so hard to sit back and just watch that. I just knew something had to be done. It’s not just about me. I have a heart for people.”

“The old agreement called for the Employer to pay 20% of the health care the first year with the Employees paying 80%,” Timpner said. “Years two and three the rates paid by the Employer were frozen at the 2018 rate, with the Employees paying 100% of any increase in years two and three.”

MAP reduced those costs by nearly half for the multiple person coverages. The Employer agreed to pay 50% of healthcare costs. Now single Employees pay $215.10 per month, Employee plus spouse coverage costs the Employee $548.40 per month and family coverage is $599.45 monthly.

The group also received retroactive wage increases in the 3-year contract ratified Oct. 15, 2018. Effective Feb. 1, 2018, Officers received up a $2 an hour pay increase or $4,100 additional annually with the top of the pay scale increasing to $19.10 per hour and the Control Center receiving a dollar more at $20.10 per hour. Custom Protection Officers (CPO’s) start at $18.36 per hour.

During the non-represented years, the Employer stopped matching their 401K and stopped going by seniority when Employees were offered overtime. The group lost three of their paid holidays. “This contract was already going on before I came in. It was kind of out of my hands,” Mitchell said. “Everything was done when we were away from MAP. They took away grievances from us. We couldn’t budge anywhere.”

“The Employer imposed an agreement that ended the grievance procedure,” Timpner said. “MAP got that (grievance procedure) back for the members.”

“Because of what we went through, nobody trusted,” Mitchell said. “I saw the writing the wall before Fred came in. I didn’t want to become at will Employees.”

Since MAP’s return, Mitchell said their group has a better working environment, is better organized, can file grievances again, and the trust is coming back.